Sleeping Giant State Park
1,465 acres in Hamden, CT
- Main Lot: Large lot at 200 Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, CT
- East End: Small pull-off near 340 Chestnut Ln, Hamden, CT
- Two small pull-offs, for a few cars each along Tuttle Ave
Trail Map Trails: 30 miles Rating: ★★★★★
Sleeping Giant is one of the crown jewels of CT hiking. The park has over 30 miles of trails around a succession of five ridges who’s modern anthropomorphism is a Sleeping Giant. The five ridges are:
- 1st Ridge – Head (670ft)
- 2nd Ridge – Chest (710ft)
- 3rd Ridge – Left Hip (739ft)
- 4th Ridge Right Leg (700ft)
- 5th Ridge – Left Knee (700ft)
With many overlooks, 400ft cliffs, caves, and a rich history the park sees hundreds of visitors each day and often fills to capacity on weekends.
Trails here cover the complete range of hiking skill levels from the easy Tower Path to the scramble up the Giant’s head along the Quinnipiac Trail. While the Tower Path is often packed the many of the other trails provide anyone seeking nature’s solitude with a much quieter walk.
Tower Path – 1.5 miles
- The tower castle located on the “Left Hip” is the easiest and most popular destination in the park. An easy grade crushed stone path switchbacks uphill for just over 1.5 miles and can be completed by nearly anyone. The tower offers 360 degree views of the surrounding area including New Haven and Long Island Sound.
Quinnipiac Trail – 4.75 miles
- The blue blaze Quinnipiac Trail enters the park from West Woods Rd and climbs along the Mill River over rugged rocks and roots From a viewpoint of the old quarry on the backside of the Giant’s head the blue trail climbs a steep rock scramble over exposed rock that can be pretty strenuous. As the trail levels out there are multiple views south from 400ft cliffs of the Giant’s “chin” at this crest of the blue trail.
- The trail then descends the neck and crosses the Tower Path several times climbing up and down hills until reaching the tower on Left Hip at around 1.4 miles. The trail then passes the Devil’s Chute and a couple more overlooks before descending to cross the red circle trail and back up the Left Knee.
- Winding around the overlook on Hezekiah’s Knob the trail continues to its eastern terminus. (It used to continue to Quinnipiac River State Park, but has been deemed too difficult to maintain in the floodplain)
Red Circle Trail – 1.5 miles
- This trail is the Cascades Trail which climbs the back of the Left Leg from the small parking area along Tuttle Ave. There is a ravine and series of cascades which often run well in spring. The handful of cascades continues until the trail crosses blue Quinnipiac Trail and then serves as a cross trail for the other east-west trails.
Other highlights include the Quarry along the eastern Violet Trail. The overlook at the meeting of the Green and White Trails. And some of the ledges and boulder piles along the Green Trail.
My recommended hike is relatively short given the amount of trails here but challenging and covers most of the highlights. From the main parking area head west towards the violet trail and hike along the river to the old quarry. Then head up the Giant’s head scrambling over open rock on the blue blaze Quinnipiac Trail. Hike down the other side and follow the blue blaze trail to the tower. After taking in the views hike down the tower trail to the red and then take the green trail towards the ‘chest’. There’s an expansive overlook where the green and white trails meet. From here you can take the white trail all the way back to the parking lot.
The trail map makes note a total of 28 different viewpoints throughout the park.
Sleeping Giant Master:
Sleeping Giant is so popular and has so many trails a Giant Master Program was created for anyone dedicated enough to hike them all. Other levels and challenges include:
- Giant Marathoners – for those hiking all the trials in one day,
- Four-Season Giant Masters – for those who hike all the trails in each season. and
- 12-Month Giant Masters – for those who hiked all the trails consecutively each month for one year.
There are also a handful of caves in the traprock ridges.
The most well-known is Dead Man’s Cave, accessed through Devil’s Chute, which I explored and made a short movie about in 2016 and revisited in 2020. The cave consists of two slanted drops going down about 40ft into a good sized main chamber. Narrow slants and crawls work around the back of this chamber to a second smaller one. There are reports of three chambers, but I’m fairly sure the opening for the third is so small that only children could access it. It was known as Abraham’s Cave until April 1973 when a group of local boys discovered a dead body at the mouth of the cave.
The easiest cave to find is Spider Cave, though it is also the least fun to explore, it is a single narrow chute going down about 20ft to a tiny chamber. Clips of it can be seen in my 2017 tour of the park.
There are rumors of at least two more caves along the same ridge, a cave near the white trail, and a cave at the quarry though I haven’t yet located them myself.
Sleeping Giant isn’t a huge rock climbing area likely because it was closed for decades following an accident in 1953. Today there are a range of routes not only on the Chin but across the park. Routes are majority trad climbing though there are options for top roping. Important caveat: I haven’t done any climbing here nor have I actually seen anyone climbing on my visits here.
Established as a state park in 1925 when the first 197 acres were turned over to the state from the Sleeping Giant Park Association (SPGA). The most complete history of the park is a book called Born Among the Hills though the SPGA had a good abbreviated version here.
- Native Americans knew the ridges as Hobbomock a giant evil spirit who was put to sleep here to prevent any further damage
- 1735 A community named Mt. Carmel builds up around the ‘Blue Hills’ here along the road at the west end of the ridges centering around Joel Munson’s dam and mill along the river
- 1888 John Dickerman builds a road up to the Fourth Ridge and a pavilion and opens it as Blue Hills Park on July 4th
- 1912 The Mt. Carmel Traprock Company starts quarrying
- 1924 The Sleeping Giant Park Association is formed in response to quarrying endangering the scenic beauty of the first ridge
- 1925 The first 197 acres are turned over to the State Park and Forest Commission and is known as Mt. Carmel State Park
- 1928 The name of the park is switched to Sleeping Giant
- 1933 Helen Porter raises $32,000 to buy the land from the Mt. Carmel Traprock Company saving the Giant’s head
- 1939 The tower we know today is built on the third ridge
- 1960 Norman Griest and Richard Elliot laid out 11 trails for 30 miles and begin work on them
- 2018 The park closes for just over a year due to tornado damage
The park was closed from May 15, 2018 to June 14, 2019 after a tornado swept through the area.
This park was featured in the inaugural 2015 DEEP Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge.
- Sleeping Giant Park Association
- Sachse, Nancy D. Born Among the Hills: The Sleeping Giant Story. Sleeping Giant Park Assn., 1988.
- Tour of Sleeping Giant State Park August 2017
- Post-Storm comparison hike – June 17, 2019
- Dead Man’s Cave 2016
- Dead Man’s Cave 2020
- Alex Ceneviva – Gov. Lamont announces Sleeping Giant State Park will reopen Friday (2019)
- Peter Marteka – “Eight Of Connecticut’s Challenging Hikes” (2017)
- CTMQ – Sleeping Giant State Park Trails Intro (2010-2012)
- The Legend of Hobbomock
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Last updated October 7th, 2020
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